3 week Cambodia Itinerary & What to do

by | Apr 22, 2017 | Travel

Cambodia is one of those magical places to add to your bucket list where you can not just visit once. Many people compare Cambodia to what Thailand was like 20 years ago and for good reason. We came here for what was planned a short trip and ended up staying for 3 months. One of the things that made it truly enjoyable was how amazing and inspirational the Khmer (Cambodia) people are. The country has its fair share of poverty and corruption so you do need to take precautions. We created the ultimate 3 week Cambodia Itinerary and Travel Guide.

What time of year should you visit Cambodia?

When to Visit Cambodia: Nov to May is Dry Season. June to Oct is Rainy Season

In order to make the most of your time in Cambodia, make sure you understand the weather conditions.  There are 2 main seasons of Cambodia. Dry season is from November to May and June to October is rainy season. The most popular time of year to visit is from November to February when the temperatures are warm but not scorching. The temperatures increase from March to May to somtimes exceed 35 degrees making it harder to tackle Angkor Wat.  In monsoon or rainy season, the country turns into a lush green tropical paradise from the daily rainfall.

Beaches of Koh Rong Samloem Cambodia

Suggested 3 Week Cambodia Itinerary

Disclaimer, this is a very action packed schedule.  An action packed schedule is required if you want to see the whole of Cambodia in a 3 week Cambodia Itinerary.  There will be some all night bus trips and long days, but it is totally worth it. Our 3 week plan starts from Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, because this is where most people fly into.  If you are travelling from another country in Southeast Asia, we found it was cheaper for us to fly from Bangkok than it was to bus.  In case you used the awesome AirAsia ASEAN Pass you will probably fly in as well.  If you are coming from bus from Thailand you will want to start from Siem Reap, and adjust your schedule to include the last days in Phnom Penh.  For everyone else we recommend this Cambodia Itinerary.

Beach at M'pay Bay in Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

Our Highlights – what you need to do in Cambodia

Koh Rong Samloem Beaches. Experience the most amazing and secluded beaches you have ever seen. Warning once you come here you may never want to go home.

Angkor Wat Ancient City. Lonely Planet rated this #1 Bucket List Attraction. It was far larger and more awesome than we anticipated.

Battambang Boat Ride. Why catch a 3 hour bus ride from Siem Reap to Battambang when you can catch a 8+ hour river boat through the rural Cambodia.

The Killing Fields & S21 Prison. Learn about the recent history of Cambodia and the genocide from 1975-1979 killed millions of Cambodians.  Prior to Cambodia, we had not known about this genocide.

Bamboo Island Train Ride.  Travel down the train track while seeing the Cambodia farmland countryside.  A steel railway made for wooden bamboo platforms, these tracks were used to transport supplies and now used for tourism. This 45 minute trip was a ton of fun.

Cityscape View in Phnom Penh of Grand Palace

Day 1 & 2: What to see in Phnom Penh

Arriving in Cambodia can be an exciting and overwhelming experience.  I am sure that you will be jet legged on your first day, but we have included your first 2 days in Phnom Penh with a full agenda.  Trust us, you will want to have saved more time for the Islands at the end. This is why we recommended 2 days for staying in Phnom Penh, before catching the night bus to Siem Reap.  To be honest Phnom Penh was not our favorite cities to stay in but had some good attractions to visit.

After your arrival at the Airport, there are a couple options to get to the city. You can catch a taxi or a tuk tuk.  The rates are normally fixed, $12 for a taxi to the city center or $6 for a tuk tuk.  If you have a bunch of luggage you might not be able to fit it in a tuk tuk.  We recommend packing a back pack for your trip to Cambodia, especially when you find yourself trying to draf luggage across sandy beaches in your Island time.  Once in the downtown core you can walk pretty much everywhere or catch a Tuk Tuk for less then $3 USD.

For our Phnom Penh travel guide we have included 2 days of activities.  On your first day, take some time to meander through the markets, try local Cambodian cuisine and adjust to the pace of the capital of Cambodia.  Visit your first temple Royal Palace, National Museum, the Russian Market and the Central Market.  On day 2, it’s time to learn about Cambodia’s recent history of the genocide of 1975-1979. Today, you should visit the Killing Fields and S21 Prison.  Read more detail about each day below.

Grand Palace of Cambodia in Phnom Penh

Day 1 Phnom Pneh: Royal Palace and Shopping

Both The Royal Palace and National Museum are those typical tourist attractions that you visit on your Cambodia Itinerary and travels just because. They are worth seeing, but if you are strapped for time we personally would not have worried about skipping. In the morning, visit the Royal Palace and the National museum.  The Royal Palace serves as the Royal residence of the king of Cambodia and was built over a century ago. Opening times are 8am – 11am, 2pm – 5pm and is $10 USD. Very little of the temples are open so you should plan to spend approx 30-45 minutes here.  The National Musuem had some good displays. Entrance fee is $5 and an additional $5  for an audio tour, $10 total.  The amount of audio you can listen too can keep you here for hours if you are interested, otherwise you will probably be here for an hour.

In the afternoon, it’s time to explore Phnom Penh shopping.  For shopping visit the Russian Market and the Central Market.  We enjoyed the Russian market and here you can find some authentic goods for knock off prices.  Thousands of tourists come through here a month so make sure to negotiate everything.  At the Central Market, the building is quite spectacular and a large market but expect the prices here to be more expensive than the Russian Market.  Stop at the Central Market for the experience.  If shopping isn’t your thing, instead in the afternoon catch a ferry to Silk Island where you can visit a local silk factory and see how it’s produced.

S21 Prison and Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh Day 2: Killing Fields and S21 Prison

The killing fields are about 12 kilometers outside the city.  You will want to plan a full day to visit the killing fields, lunch and S21 prison. You should plan approximately 2 to 2.5 hours at each location. For this day you will want to hire a tuk tuk for the day, this normally costs $15 to $20.

We had never heard of or previously learned in school about the genocide of Cambodia.  It is heartbreaking but important to learn about this not so recent history if you are visiting the country of Cambodia.  You will leave appreciating the resilience of this country. During the Pol Pot Regime (1975-1979), one in four Cambodian people died.  At the Phnom Penh Choeung Ek killing field, more than 9000 bodies were discovered here in mass graves. At the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, also known as S21 prison, there were over 12,000 people held and tortured here during the 4 years of the Pol Pot regime. Only 7 survived.

At each location there are audio tours available to walk you through the stations and give history to what happened their. Make sure to get the audio tour at each location. They did such good job with the audio tour let us go through the museums at our own pace. You can listen to extra segments to learn more history or hear additional survivor stores.  The mission of these museums is to help educate the future generations and visitors of Cambodia to prevent events like this from ever happening again. This day has left a deep impression on us. You can read more about this at the Killing Fields & S21.  A book that we have read since our visit that we would recommend is First they Killed my Father.

Where to Stay in Phnom Penh

The ideal area to stay Downtown is somewhere between the Royal Palace and pub street. These are the Main Hotels in the heart of the city.  The main attractions and things to do are all within walking distance.  We stayed at a really nice little hotel called “the Golden Noura Village” that was under $13/usd a night and a great location. It was a few hundred steps away from the Royal Palace and Museum. Your hotel will try and sell you tours at $15-$20 a person, negotiate directly with the tuk-tuks and that is the daily rate vs per person.

Travel from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

 

In Cambodia and Southeast Asia, it is popular to catch a nightbus to drive long distances across the country.  That doesn’t only mean it’s a bus that drives at night.  There are Hotel Night Buses that offer a bed, blanket and pillow in a cubby for you to sleep while you travel from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. At 11pm we had left Phnom Penh on our way to Siem Reap on our first hotel bus. The tickets are $15 each, but you need to be aware this includes 2 tickets sharing the spot similar to a single bed.  This is fine but if you are a couple but if you are travelling solo and do not want a cuddle buddy you may want to consider purchasing two tickets.

During our time in Cambodia, we took 2 night buses, with varied experiences.  Our bus driver with TSS Transport drove way too fast, and ended up at Siem Reap an hour and a half before our scheduled arrival. We caught a bus later with Virak Buntham and they were very respectful and safe although have a horrible rating online.

Getting there really early was both a good and a bad thing. We could not check in early so we decided to catch a Tuk Tuk and start our Angkor Wat experience off with watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat.  There were quite a few tuk tuk’s out between 4 am to 5 both because of the pub street that was still going strong and for the early risers to see sunrise.

Inside Angkor Wat at Main Temple

Day 3-7 What to See In Siem Reap

Siem Reap is famous for Angkor Wat. During your stay you will find you probably spend approximately 2-3 days touring this massive ancient city.  It is located on 162 hectares so it’s quite expansive.  Otherwise Siem Reap also has a very nice tourism area that is worth getting out and exploring.  There is a popular Night Market and a booming Pub Street at night with those famous 50 cent draft beers. Koulen Restaurant offers a traditional Cambodian dance live show and great buffet for $12.

For days 3-7 we would suggest carving out 3 of those days to see Angkor Wat.  This is the biggest attraction for Siem Reap and what many visit Cambodia just to see.  Spend the time here,  you can find cities throughout the rest of your time in Cambodia.  On day 4, we would suggest taking a full day to take a boat trip to your next location, Battambang.  Or if you prefer to take the bus, spend a day in Siem Reap at National Musuem, the Landmine Museum, or the Floating Villages in Tonle Sap Lake

Angkor Wat Temple

Day 3-6 Visiting Angkor Wat In Siem Reap

Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world.  It’s not just a single temple, but an ancient civilization that was built over 162 hectares.  Angkor Wat was built in the 11th Century and abandoned in the 15th Century until it was discovered in 1860.  The architecture of Angkor Wat is astounding, given that it was built so long ago. It is estimated that over 300,000 workers and 6,000 elephants to create these monuments.  The main site of Angkor Wat has a large wall and a mote which you can access by a dirt causeway.  The detailed carvings throughout all of the monuments are still largely intact.  It’s such a unique experience to visit a city so old and exceptional. Wandering through the mazes of small temples and inner and outer walls just envision what it was like as a bustling city of the 11th Century.

Touring Angkor Wat is one of those things that blew our expectations. It was far larger and more detailed then we had imagined. There are 3 options for tickets. A 1, 3, or 7 day pass starting at $37 dollars for the day pass. We found that a 3 day pass gave us enough time to really get out and explore without trying to cram it into one day.  You have a couple options for transportation to and around Angkor Wat.  You can rent a bicycle and peddle in between temples, rent a scooter or hire a tuk tuk driver.  We rented a Tuk Tuk who knew the area and which temples to go to and who picked us up early and dropped us off. Did we mention it’s hot? In our opinion this was best way to experience Angkor Wat.

1 or 3 Day Angkor Wat Itinerary

Discovering Angkor Wat is much more detailed than we can cover in our Itinerary.  Read our 4000+ Angkor Wat blog article for everything you need to know about your tour here.  We go over suggested routes, our favorite temples, ticket prices, and Tuk Tuk Prices. Most important how to get out early and see the crowds.  Here is a sneak peak at one of the many jaw dropping pictures we took.

Ride in a Tuk Tuk Driver around Angkor Wat for the Day

Where to Stay in Siem Reap

After a long day of temple touring in the 30+ degree heat at Angkor Wat, you will want to stay at a nice hotel that offers a pool to relax by.  For your 3 days here, don’t cheap out and get a hotel without Air Conditioning or a pool, you will thank us later. Luckily there are lots of options in Siem Reap that have a pool and AC for under $20.  They are all in the same area on Sok San Road.  We stayed at the Le Tigre Hotel, with a pool and AC and we had booked on a special for less than $14 a night. There are also lots of Restaurant options on Sok San Road, some fancy restaurants and some very affordable restaurants all within walking distance.  In this location you are walking distance to the Nigh Market, Pub Street or a relaxing massage.

River Boat ride from Siem Reap to Battambang

Day 7 Travel from Siem Reap To Battambang By River Boat

Why catch a 3 hour bus ride when you can catch a 8 hour riverboat ride!  We are so glad we experienced this, a highlight for our time in Cambodia.  There are mixed reviews, some rated this the adventure of a lifetime, others a very poor experience.  I think if you are an adventure type traveller that approaches situations with little expectations you will be very delighted.  You travel 70 km by boat through Tonle Sap lake, past all the floating village, through rural farmland, with lots of local kids smiling and waving at you passing by.  Your experience will differ greatly depending on the season you go.  In dry season, the river is extremely low and we got stuck many times.  For example, Tonle Sap Lake will be approx. 12 deep in wet season or 1.5M in dry season.  Find our experience about our Battambang River Boat.

Walking down the quiet town of Battambang

Day 8: What To SEE in Battambang 

Battambang is rated the cleanest city in Cambodia and was very cute and off the tourist track. An old colonial french town, this small town was somewhere you may want to get a good book and enjoy for some down days. But as we are planning a 3-week Itinerary, that will have to be another time.  After the boat ride you will want to rest up. Surprisingly sitting for 8 hours in a boat makes you tired.  Check in to your hotel and at night time, walk out to the market and area by the river for dinner.

The next full day in Battambang, grab a tuk tuk for the day, here in Battambang this will cost between $12 to $16 dollars.  Hands down the best tuk tuk driver we had was Mr Lizzy.  Not only did he drive us, but would stop along the way tell us facts or attractions we didn’t even know about. Best of all we really enjoyed his company.  He literally walked with us up the huge hill, acting more of a tour guide versus a driver. He wanted the best for us and went well above and beyond.  He is $13 USD a day for 2 or $16 for 4.

Day 1 Battambang Morning Itinerary: The Bamboo Train

In the morning, visit the Bamboo Train where you ride down a railroad track on a simple bamboo platform through the farmland country side. This was one of those unique experiences you can not miss out on. The trip takes about 20 minutes each way (7 kilometers) as you ride along a train track on a small wooden bamboo frame. The frame sits on 2 different metal barbells wheels that roll along the track. Powering this is a 6hp little engine that gets you going at a good speed.  As this is a single track, what do you think you do when someone is coming the opposite direction? Simple, one person gets off, lifts the frame and wheels, and takes off the track. They then easily assemble this and keep on going.

Ride the train to a couple shops at the end where you can do some shopping and ride back.  It is so much fun!  This  was $5 / for the entire trip and saw some amazing countryside.  A highlight from the Cambodia Travel experience.

View overlooking Battambang Countryside from Mountain Top

DAY 1 BATTAMBANG AFTERNOON ITINERARY: Bat Caves

Break for lunch, and at about 3 pm drive out of town to the Killing Caves, Temple and Bat Caves. After driving through the countryside on the tuk tuk, park at the bottom of the mountain and trek to the top to visit the local and activate temple at the top.  It will take you about 30-45 minutes to hike to the top. Behind the temple, go and visit the Killing Caves, another site where the Pol Pot regime used to dump their victim’s bodies. There were hundreds of killing fields across Cambodia some of which are still being discovered to this day. The Killing Caves in Battambang are not nearly as popular as the Phnom Penh Killing fields, but is a quick sight to see. Keep climbing up to the very top and you will see a very pretty view of the countryside and Battambang in the distance.

From here, there is a staircase you take all the way to the bottom where you grab a seat for the show.  What show you ask?  Every evening at sunset an approximate 4 to 6 million bats awake from their cave and fly out all together over a duration of 30 minutes.  They are waking up to hunt for the night and what’s unique is they all fly in a group in a straight line together. So you can see the bats in the horizon as they keep flying out. It’s quite a unique sight to see.  You have been warned, do not sit too close.  The bats like to take a morning pee or poop when they wake up and it’s quite a pungent small.  We still got close enough to take this photo with no regrets.

Where to stay In Battambang hotels 

The New Asia Hotel for $12/night was a simple, clean and comfortable hotel. They are customer service oriented and give you a map and directions around the city after you arrive. The rooms were very clean, air conditioners worked great, and was in the center of the small town.  In the morning purchase your ticket from the hotel for another hotel night bus at 11 pm from Battambang to Sihanoukville. They offer luggage storage for the day before you catch the bus in the later evening.

Travel from Battambang to Sihanoukville by Bus

Get ready for a long ride! As we said above we had booked a night sleeper bus with  Virak Buntham and was a far better experience then our other overnight buses. We would suggest requesting a lower bed, it felt like a little cocoon. The upper beds windows rattled, had light from outside street lights and light from when the bus stopped.

After arriving in Phnom Penh around 6:30am, you transfer to a mini bus to Sihanoukville.  You will arrive in Sihanoukville around noon. The total price for both buses was $18. Sometimes we take Gravol or Nyquill to help us sleep through the entire night so we can enjoy the next day!

Sihanoukville Downtown by Boat and Ferry Dock

Day 9 & 10 What to Do in Sihanoukville

Welcome to Sihanoukville!  This is a town that loves to party and there is no shortage of nighttime activities going well into the night.  It is full of expats, $.50 draft beers almost everywhere, and comfy coaches on the beach. It certainly is not one of the prettiest towns you will ever visit with people, litter and lots of beggars.  There are 52 casinos for a town of approx 200,000.

However this town really grew on us and after spending a month here made us come back for another month. The people and friends we met were amazing. We found some gems, where the food was delicious and very cheap. It is outlined with gorgeous beaches and each beach offers a different vibe, something for everyone.

2 Chairs under Umbrellas on Beach of Koh Rong Samloem

Where To Stay In Sihanoukville

The great thing about Sihanoukville is that it is a small little city and regardless where you choose there will usually be a beach nearby.  The 3 main areas to book hotels are divided into Downtown, Victory Hill, or Otres.  One good thing to note that a tuk tuk is a max $5 pretty much everywhere in the city and there are no shortages.

If you don’t want to stay in the party city, we would definitely recommend spending your 2 days at Otres.  Their is a small Otres Village with restaurants abound and many bungalows lining the beautiful Otres beaches 1 and 2.  This is definitely the most people beaches in Sihanoukville.  If you don’t stay here, you will surely find yourself taking a tuk tuk here.You will hardly believe this area is close to Sihanoukville.  At this beach there is a playground on the water for kids, sea do rentals, sail boat rentals, beach side massages and of course $0.75 cent draft specials.

We loved our NA Boutique Hotel.  They did month long rentals so we stayed here for our 2 months. The staff was amazing, very reasonably priced for a higher end hotel, and felt safe here. Plus they had super comfy beds, pool, and was very quiet. 5 star review for them.

Ream National Park in Cambodia

Visit Ream National Park Sihanouvkille

Ream National Park, is stunning. This photo below is not a stock photo. It was about an 45 minute drive from Sihanoukville where you drive along some deserted red gravel roads. When you get here there is a small park fee to get in, but you can find your own deserted beach.  This main attraction below in the pic gets very busy after 10:30am (the buses come), so we snapped this as we saw 3 show up. Bring a lunch and enjoy an amazing afternoon.

Crossfit at Fitness Resort Sihanoukville

Fitness Retreat Sihanoukville

In case you were looking to work off some of those beers you had on the beach, Fitness Resort Sihanoukville is the place to do it! We enjoyed getting our butts kicked so much we ended up staying here for 2 months. With different classes every morning, group weightlifting sessions in the afternoon, and Aerobic or Martial Arts in the evening.  Our favorite was the outside cross fit on Fridays in the 30 + degree heat.

Speed Ferry Cambodia Review

Book Your Tickets To Koh Rong Samloem (7 days)

When booking your tickets to Koh Rong Samloem is important that you know your destination prior to booking. They are very large islands and many bays are only accessible by taxi boat. There are numerous different ferry companies going to Koh Rong Samloem and in fact we wrote a full blog here on the best way to get there. Price is $20 return and takes approximately 1 hour each direction.

Saracen Beach of Koh Rong Samloem

Day 11 – 17 on Koh Rong Samloem

The Best Beaches In Cambodia

Welcome to the nicest beaches you have ever seen! We had spent nearly 10 days here and counting the days until we can go back. So we have included 6 days on the beach, this is a vacation afterall and up until now the agenda has been pretty packed.  There are 3 main areas on Koh Rong Samloem and you want to explore them all. Clear Water Bay was the most secluded and beachtiful beach with only a small hostel on it and worth a day trek here. M’pay Bay was our favourite little town where we spent most of our time. Not only did it have beautiful beaches but only had sand as road.  Then Saracen Bay that is the resort area, where everything usually costs double.  We delved into more detail of Koh Rong Samloem here about each of the areas and things to do at each beach.

Day 18 & 19 What to See in Kampot

Kampot is an enchanting riverside city and somewhere you should spend the night. Kampot is safe and easy to walk around in so get ready to get out and explore. Some of the activities include the Teuk Chhou Rapids, sunset cruises, visiting Bokor Mountain, the caves of Kompong Trach, the trekking trains, the pepper farms and the salt mines.  You have 2 days here so you can choose which activities you would like to do.

Frangipani Rooftop Hotel Deck in Phnom Penh

Day 20 & 21 Travel to Phnom Penh

When it comes to International flights, we always recommend being in the city of departure at least a day before you leave.  After all, it can only take 1 broken down ferry or bus to cut it too close.  We recommend planning to spend 1 day in Phnom Penh before leaving in case something comes up. You can use this last day to enjoy some of the attractions you did not see last time. One of our favorite things we did was enjoy  a happy hour special at the Frangipani Royal Hotel.  There is a gorgeous pool and the best place to enjoy the sunset.  The best part about this is that happy hour from 4-8 pm have 50% off drinks, so the beers are then $1.25. It is more expensive to eat here but enjoy a drink overlooking the town.

We hope this Itinerary comes in handy for you while planning your trip to Cambodia!  Keep reading for tips and safety for travelling in Cambodia. Feel free to comment below any questions you have and we are happy to answer!

Arial View of Central Market in Phnom Penh

Top 10 Things You Need To Know About Cambodia To Stay Safe

Logistics of your Cambodia Itinerary

  1. You do not need to get Riel (Cambodian Currency). The banks in Cambodia only give USD and used everywhere. When using a bank machine they do not give small change and is hard to get change. So if you take out $500, make it $490.
  2. Renting a motorbike does require a passport as deposit or a $500 deposit. There is HUGE theft of bikes, so if your bike is parked out of sight, always put a lock on it and keep it somewhere safe at night.
  3. Get an international drivers license if you are planning on renting a motorbike. According to the law you do not need them but you will still get fined for this.
  4. Watch our for all the poor kids forced to beg. Some may need this but it is a business where to parents are forcing them to do this during school hours.
  5. Bring photo copies of your passport. This way hotels ask for it when checking in, and if you left it with a motorbike you may not be able to get a room.
  6. Everything is negotiable. When told a price ask for the “best price” and if they go lower then you know there is margin. Normally they expect you to barter or to pay a higher price. Remember, negotiating should be fun for you and the vendor.
  7. Get a sim card. We used Metfone but it did not work on Koh Rong Samloem so for the trip get a SMART Sim.
  8. Tuk Tuk’s are everywhere and rides are very affordable.  Make sure that you negotiate a rate and to confirm your driver knows where they are going. We always use Google Maps if we have data, or you can download maps.me (offline version)

Safety while in Cambodia

  1. The police are paid commission for fines they issue or bribes they collect, so be mindful. For normal traffic violations such as not wearing a helmet or driving with your lights on, the fine is approx $1.25 to $2.75.
  2. Do not buy marijuana. We met 2 people that had been arrested, and were driven to bank machines to pay $300+ USD each for this.
  3. Report any cases of child prostitution. There is a hotline you can call, this is a big a business in Cambodia.  You will see many teenage girls out at night in the bars.
  4. When you are riding on a motorbike, do not wear a over the shoulder or sling purse.  There have been cases of people slashing and driving off with them. Keep your purse below the seat.  This can apply to walking on the streets as well.
Angkor Wat in Siem Reap

Final Recommendations for your Cambodia Itinerary

Last word of advice for your 3-week Cambodia Itinerary is just to come in with an open mind. Cambodia is one of those hidden gems but is still a third world country. You may see cows just walking down the middle of the road and there is a huge division of wealth from the rich and poor.  Our tips and suggestions are not to scare you from doing so but help prepare to make the most out of your trip. We truly loved our experiences and know when we go back at the rate it is growing will be different.  Tourism has not been in this country for too long and people keep flooding in.  So make sure to come as soon as possible 🙂

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